Recently a blog on the URBACT site gave away the secrets to do just that. From the many European projects that they have run, thematic pole manager Ivan Tosics drew up a blog post to inspire others. Creating opportunities to interact with each other and the hosts, involving all participants, stimulating discussions and initiatives: these are just some of the tips.
Study visits come in all shapes and sizes, with most visits lasting 3 to 5 days and with groups that vary in size from 10 to 15 to 25 people. Many study visits (or study trips or study tours for that matter) amount to a factfinding mission, but it can be so much more than that.
International study visits broaden our horizons, challenge our understanding of ourselves, and help us understand those whose cultures are different from our own. As such they are an invaluable tool in internationalisation. Often visitors prepare themselves by researching the topic of interest in their own country and reviewing their own practice before the actual visit takes place.
For students' learning the aim is often to compare and to contrast (and sometimes to benchmark).
A familiar approach to attain these goals is to have site visits to NGOs and other organisations and / or to provide a mixture of expert inputs and discussion.
Here are the 6 "golden nuggets" that are listed in the blog post that was mentioned above:
1. Increase Innovation Potential With Unusual Circumstances
2. Involve Participants In Collective, Playful Actions
3. Organise Dynamic Presentations Of Interesting Practices
4. Ask Partners To Identify Innovative Small Case Practices
5. Make Space For Two-way Knowledge Transfer With The Hosts Of Study Visits
6. Make Room For Micro-consulting: ask international visitors to act as experts, giving advice on questions of interests to the hosts
Especially, this last tip is definitely an interesting one from an international perspective. For it requires visitors to put themselves in the shoes of the hosts and to relate the topics to the contexts they are familiar with at home. This thinking exercise is bound to produce some incredibly creative ideas that can inspire the hosts to regard the issue at hand in another light and harvest multiple perspectives and solutions from a diverse audience.
Elsewhere on this blog City as Text was mentioned as an innovative method to uncover and discover urban areas off the beaten track in a surprising manner. The CaT pedagogy emphasizes the strength of experiential or active learning by inviting participants to "read a city as a text" by having a walkabout through urban districts and debriefing sessions to follow up. This CaT method incorporates a number of these golden nuggets turning a study visit into a successful and stimulating experience.